A Drinking Problem

No, I don’t have one. Not drinking is my problem. Abstaining from alcohol or not being fully committed to gettin slizzard seems to be less socially acceptable than being a raging alcoholic.  Why is that?

The last time I drank a lot of alcohol was three years ago about a month before I met my husband. This is what it looked like:

At a Tarts and Vicars party. Hence the schoolgirl prostitute outfit and the bewildered priest.

Shortly after the tragedy of my lollipop’s stick going limp I basically passed out in a beanbag chair and a Frag Doll and a Cavegirl put me to bed. There was vomiting. I had a great time at that party, and in this rare instance the fun I had was greater than the pain that ensued.

I don’t have any family history of alcoholism. I have CERTAINLY done some drinking in my life (as many of you who have met me at E3, GDC and PAX can attest to) and don’t discourage those around me from drinking. I just don’t do it any more, and I’ll tell you why:

  1. I have three children. Someone needs to be responsible for them and that someone should not be drunk.
  2. I have a perfect driving record. I have had parking tickets and have been pulled over for expired tabs or a bad taillight, but I have never done anything sketchy behind the wheel. I don’t think a DUI would be a good way to pop the cherry on my record.
  3. The pros and cons don’t balance out. I don’t enjoy the feeling of being tipsy or ‘relaxed’ enough to cancel out the hangover.
  4. Alcohol doesn’t like me. I don’t know if it’s being out of practice, getting older, or maybe a mild allergy, but I go from buzzed to hungover in about 30 minutes. Not worth it.

Logical, yeah?  So why am I, and other people who just aren’t into drinking social pariahs? It has held me back in my social life and especially my career. If you enjoy imbibing I’m sure you’ve had the sort of conversation like this: “Yeah it turns out s/he doesn’t really drink. So *that’s* a lot of fun [sarcasm]”. So, coworkers or clients that don’t fully commit to drinking are less desirable than the ones who like to knock a few back at happy hour and REALLY tie one on during business trips, trade shows etc.?  Why is that? Do the drinkers fear the light or non-drinkers will judge them? In my experience it’s the other way around. Drinking is the acceptable norm, and not drinking is the anomaly. You can get away with it if you’re a recovering alcoholic, Mormon, Muslim, or pregnant. Otherwise… there is something wrong with you (and in three of those four cases, people don’t want to party with you anyway. Unfair, but true).

I understand the need to socialize with colleagues. It shows you’re a good sport and a team player and can cut loose. But if you don’t have a ‘good reason’ to order a Diet Coke instead of a beer you are suspect. A spy, a stick in the mud, or just plain weird.

This seems fucked up to me. Does a person have to drink to be successful? It appears that way. Is it just in the quasi-entertainment industry in which I’ve found myself? Is it worse in music and film? Do you have to do coke (or be a recovering addict) to get ahead? Should I and other abstainers have to drink to advance our careers? Is this high school?

So, drinkers who mistrust non-drinkers: what’s the deal with that? Abstainers: Does this ring true for you too?




  1. I for a short while ended up having a bit of a drinking problem, so tend to not drink now. People often don’t understand, somehow offering a smaller drink, or even a shandy, is “not drinking” to some people, it is a shame, I’m generally jovial when I’m ok regardless and have never felt the need to get stupidly drunk to enjoy myself but there is a prejudice around about non drinkers or even light drinkers.

  2. I’m also an abstainer, for the same reasons as you – don’t really enjoy it that much, drive everywhere, and often get a headache within 20 minutes of drinking. And yes, it certainly gets met with surprise and requires explanation, which gets frustrating.

    Thankfully, my work doesn’t really have an active social scene, so it’s not got in the way of my professional life, but when casually socialising, there is a lot of “Go on, you know you want a beer really”-type pressure from many people which frankly gets right on my tits.

  3. I think for some, including me on occasion (as a drinker), the distrust comes from a perception us “drinkers” are being judged negatively by “non-drinkers”. It’s often a completely wrong perception, I know, but sometimes a guttural, instinctive reaction.

    But I celebrate whatever choices people make, it ain’t my life, it’s yours. Rock on sister.

    Also – my son is a US Marine, Recon, serving in Afghanistan right now and it’s…really hard to talk to him and hear about his friends/colleagues getting killed/hurt constantly. I know you know what I’m talking about, just thought I’d share. 🙂

  4. During my year+ of not drinking, I found that NORMAL people don’t mind if you aren’t drinking. If nothing else, they are happy that someone will be sober enough to drive.

    The people who, in the back of their mind, wonder if THEY drink too much or maybe have a problem themselves, feel very self-conscious when someone else opts to not drink.

    It makes them self-examine, and it bugs the shit out of them. They need everyone to drink to justify their drinking…

  5. Be a sheep or gtfo, is the proper phrase.

    Turns out there’s no trolling ability here. For once you made a logical, if not common knowledge, point.

    I like sheep. So fluffy.

  6. I actually quit drinking when I turned 21 for about 3 years. This was during my first of 2 forays into the actual arcade industry. I took a HUGE amount of heat for that, and not doing the typical strip club “entertaining”. I don’t have a problem with either, but it definitely harmed my career.

    I enjoy drinking, and know how to handle myself professionally. Which many don’t. I have had to carry many a coworker, and even a manager or two, back to their rooms at a trade show or event. Yet they get a pass, as “a bad night”, or it becomes a funny story. I agree it doesn’t make sense that a raging Sheenesque drunk is ok, but someone who abstains, or even lightly drinks is viewed as odd. Of course, since I am Irish, German, Native American, and Texan, I figure I have about eighty proof in my blood stream anyways. I have found a very effective way of shutting up the “Oh, you wimp” JA’s.

    I offer to start doing shots of 151 Rum.
    Most sane people quickly shut up. Those who have never tried it only usually will once.

    After they stop crying or cursing in a raspy voice, I ask if they would like another, while commenting how I love the spicy cinnamon flavor.

    The eye bulge reaction is great.

    Even better is when another coworker lit the shot glass on fire, and told the JA, “you just basically drank jet fuel there, and he drinks that like it is water. You might want to stop now”.

  7. The main reason I’ve heard provided for mistrusting people who don’t drink is, if you drink, your self-control goes all to hell. Some people aren’t sure they can trust people who feel a need to maintain self-control (or so the explanation goes).

    I guess the idea is “when you’re drunk, you can’t maintain a lie or hide ulterior motives for shit, so I want to see you drunk, so I can evaluate whether you’re lying or have ulterior motives”.

    I would contend that this reasoning doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny (cf. “the clubbing scene”), but I’ve heard it presented more than once.

    Myself, I drink, but not heavily. Not heavily anymore. Why? Well, there was this time I woke up in a hotel, and my jaw was sore, and the hotel bath tub was full of broken glass, and about 1/3 of the people in the hotel were mad at me, and I had no idea why. Yeah… let’s just go ahead and drink less from now on…

  8. This is an ‘old’ (in Internet terms) thread, but just to echo the same sentiments – I’ve found that being a non-drinker (for all of my life) has tremendously held me back – not in my job, I don’t think… but definitely socially (and perhaps even in relationships, as my available dating pool is more of a puddle). It frankly pisses me off.

    Of course, it also pisses me off that drinking is seen as some required method of socializing and ‘having fun’ – to the point of there being absolutely NOTHING to do in Baltimore’s night-life that doesn’t involve it. … but that’s neither here nor there.

    As another poster mentioned, it’s a sheep mentality; stupid mainstream media (and MTV) tell people you “have” to, and that your actions while under the influence are things you’re largely excused for, and encouraged for entertainment value.

    Personally, I don’t like how people act when they’re intoxicated.. Most of the time, it’s so unpredictable that It downright scares me. I don’t like when people act differently than I’m used to.

    Anyway, this post is largely venting and doesn’t have much of a point…. I could write a book, as I feel very strongly about this, but just know that – to me – NOT drinking is pretty much the most awesome thing a person can do, and I hope you don’t let it get you down too much. The pieces of shit who can’t like you or don’t want to be around you because you don’t stoop to their level can fuck right off. I’ve had the pleasure to hang out with you, you’re more fun than any temporarily(or naturally)-mindless person doing something they’re too much of a wuss to do while sober.

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